It was a lazy Sunday at the mall with my dad when this book came into my life. We were browsing around the bookstore (I had forced him to go in, naturally) and the title caught my eye. The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fuck. Alright, you got me. I picked it up and turned to a random page to get an idea of what this book entailed, and read a passage with about three or four uses of “fuck” in it, so obviously I bought it.
With therapy comes the reading of certain self improvement books, just to experiment and see what resonates with you and your particular form of anxiety. I’ve read The Four Agreements and next on my list is You Are a Badass, which I’m pretty stoked for. Some you relate to, some you don’t. In this particular book, I found almost every word motivational. If I could have highlighted the entire book, I would. Mark Manson has a way with words that inspires, and also hits you with an uncomfortable truth that results in laughter and tears. Since this book has been so moving for me, and issues I face daily with my own anxiety, I decided to share some of my favorite passages.
“Look, this is how it works. You’re going to die one day. I know that’s kind of obvious, but I just wanted to remind you in case you’d forgotten. You and everyone you know are going to be dead soon. And in the short amount of time between here and there, you have a limited amount of fucks to give. Very few, in fact. And if you go around giving a fuck about everything and everyone without conscious thought or choice – well, then you’re going to get fucked.”
This passage is on page 13, so you hit it right off the bat. Mark Manson, the author, doesn’t waste any time getting straight to the point. When faced with our own mortality, life’s petty and trivial struggles seem just that – petty and trivial. They are small, and shouldn’t be limiting our ability to truly shine in what motivates us, and brings us joy. Life is so short, and we only have the ability to give a certain amount of fucks, why waste them on things that could bring us down or dull our light? For me personally, this passage meant more about my anxiety. Why would I be wasting my time obsessing about things I cannot control; like if someone actually likes me or if they are just being nice, or if I did something perfectly right at work, when there are so many other, bigger things I could be devoting my time to? It’s a question worth asking yourself, you never know what the answer might be.
“Life is about not knowing and then doing something anyway. All of life is like this. It never changes. Even when you’re happy. Even when you’re farting fairy dust. Even when you win the lottery and buy a small fleet of Jet Skis, you still won’t know what the hell you’re doing. Don’t ever forget that. And don’t ever be afraid of that.”
There is a certainty relief in knowing that we are all in this thing called life together. When you think about it, no one really knows what they are doing. Everyone from President Obama, to your next door neighbor has no real clue. All of our doubts and insecurities about tackling that next goal or step towards happiness or true success comes from the fear that we “don’t know” what will happen. There have been plenty of times where I’ve stumbled into something completely blind, not knowing at all what will happen next. It’s a really scary place to be, but also the most thrilling. It’s a true sign of being alive to brave unknown challenges, so we must not forget to do it anyway.
“When the standard of success becomes merely acting – when any result is regarded as progress and important, when inspiration is seen as a reward rather than a prerequisite – we propel ourselves ahead. We feel free to fail, and that failure moves us forward.”
In particular, this passage struck a nerve with me. Failure has always been something I struggle dealing with. It ties directly with shame, an emotion that constantly triggers my anxiety. The fear of failing is what keeps me from rising to the challenge – whether it be at work, or a personal goal – but rather paralyzes me with anxiousness. Manson challenges us to change how we view success and how we reward ourselves, so we are able to tackle that next goal without that fear of failure creeping in. Yes, failure will always be there like a constant black cloud, but failure isn’t always a negative. Throughout the book, Manson also challenges that dealing with the negative is crucial and failure is something we encounter on a daily basis, but it’s how we handle the emotion that truly counts. Can you move forward from that feeling, or will it cripple you?
“If you make a sacrifice for someone you care about, it needs to be because you want to, not because you feel obligated or because you fear the consequences of not doing so. If your partner is going to make a sacrifice for you, it needs to be because he or she genuinely wants to, not because you’ve manipulated the sacrifice through anger or guilt. Acts of love are valid only if they’re performed without conditions or expectations.”
This passage not only applies to romantic relationships, but family or friendships. It can be very difficult to wade through the constant bullshit of family drama and toxic relationships – whether it be a shitty ex boyfriend or a manipulative parent – and come out the other side completely unfazed. More recently, I’ve had to unlearn a lot of behaviors that were taught by my family, and learn how to think more for myself. As someone who has had her fair share of manipulative relationships, it can be tricky to tell when it’s genuine and when the act of love is fake, especially when you’re still learning new ways to be in these relationships.
Manson teaches us that love is only real when the acts are performed without any expectations or conditions, which almost everyone has trouble erasing. For me, it’s been a slow progression, but the more you realize that you deserve genuine acts of love from the relationships you’re in, the less you care about people dropping from your life. They never really deserved to be there in the first place.
“You are great. Already. Whether you realize it or not. Whether anybody realizes it or not. And it’s not because you launched an iPhone app, or finished school a year early, or bought yourself a sweet-ass boat. These things do not define greatness.
You are already great because in the face of endless confusion and certain death, you continue to choose what to give a fuck about and what not to. This mere fact, this simple optioning for your own values in life, already makes you beautiful, already makes you successful, and already makes you loved. Even if you don’t realize it. Even if you’re sleeping in a gutter and starving.”
I wanted to make this the last passage from the book because it captures the essence of Mark’s message to his readers: you are already good enough. At least, that’s what I felt reading it. He so wants you to understand that you already have greatness inside you, it’s just a matter of rejecting the fear holding it back, and facing what life will ultimately throw your way.
With my anxiety, I have real trouble with statements or affirmations like this because I mostly don’t think I’m good enough. So, reading it and hearing myself say it can be emotional. This passage very much reminded me of a time when my therapist first got to the root of my stress and anxiety and told me, “you know you’re good enough, right?” Which resulted in enough tears to fill the entire room. It’s books like this that I must force myself to read and fully grasp the message of channeling my greatness. Plus, it helps that there’s a good deal of swearing and sarcasm, I like that.
The very end of this book takes you on Mark’s journey to look death directly in the face, and the final page leaves you with a sense of peace and new motivation to apply for that job that seems out of reach, ask that guy or girl out who makes you weak in the knees, or even push you to write a blog post about how much this book moved you. Like Mark says, we all are going to croak one day. Why not just do the things that scare us, and give out our fucks only for things that build us up, not bring us down. It’s not the simple path, but it’s one I plan on giving a go now.
Sidenote: If you want to learn more about Mark and his book, check out his website here. Manson also writes another book called Models: Attract Women Through Honesty. You know, just in case you fellas were reading this and wondering why us ladies aren’t flocking to you as of late. Just a suggestion.
Did you read The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fuck, or another self improvement book? What were your thoughts?